Articles in the Category Philosophy

Missing the Mornings

Dawn to daylight. From the dim, sparkling haze of first light, to the breaking solar rays across tree tops. These are the magic hours.

A clean slate. A fresh-faced river. New light and raw beginnings for forgetful fish. Recently out of the darkness, the trout’s guard is down. He trusts more. He worries less.

The new day is a blank canvas — an unwritten chapter of events and plans. Not your plans, but the river’s plans. Because such decisions are not for any of us to choose.

Walk deep into the backcountry one day, cut through the darkness before pre-dawn, and experience this. Arrive before first light to a place untouched for some time. Feel the newness, the virginity of first light among the surrounding hills . . .

Grandfather

He didn’t fish. He hunted. Wandering over wooded mountains, and whispering through the wheat fields, I followed my grandfather into a broken forest. We climbed over long oaks, and we scaled fallen hemlock trunks to reach the other side of a small stream. My footsteps fell into his. He walked slowly — much slower than a boy’s patience could match. And when my eagerness overtook me, Grandfather turned to force my pause. He leaned in and granted me this wisdom: “Slowly, child. Life’s secrets are in these trees.”

He was gone before my sons were born.

And now, when I enter these forests, these forgotten tramps, miles away from industry and deep inside shaded canyons, the wet moss absorbs my footfalls and silences the mental rush of an average life. These muted and hushed moments are given for remembering . . .

The Walkout

. . .The patch of forest beyond was more open than I remembered, and I walked easily through tall spruce and dying ferns, chasing the last remaining shade-line sideways until it disappeared. Silence soaked in with the shade. With the fading light, I felt the cool earth of the forest reach up and take over what the fleeting sun had left behind.

These changes of light and season happen both suddenly and gradually, depending on your own perspective and movement in time. Sit still for a while and watch the daylight fade into blackness, and it takes hours. But walk among the trees at dusk, across a soft bed of spruce needles, after a long day on the river, and time speeds up. The pace of the trees, the perspective of the forest takes hold within you, and a good long look into the future looks a lot like the past, with the days and nights rolling into each other, turning in concentric circles, day to night, season to season, through a window of time both small and wide all at once — and all of it happening both here and somewhere else concurrently, though you can’t be sure . . .

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

Austin and I left at dawn. We crossed the wide river at a tailout and entered a dense forest of hemlock and sycamore trees. Walking through dew and morning shadows, we quietly moved downstream toward a favorite, brushy island section for one final fishing trip.

Austin graduated from Penn State a few days before our trip last week, and he’s moving to North Carolina next week. And while many farewells are accompanied by a sincere “I’ll be back soon,” neither of us were willing to tell each other that lie. Sure, life may bring Austin back sooner than later, or ten years from now I may be talking about a good friend whom I miss and haven’t seen for a decade. It’s hard to predict.

I like that. A good life is unpredictable. If you have enough lines in the water, something unexpected is bound to happen. We might label those events good or bad, but I for one am happy for the variety. I’m glad this life is full of surprises.

Grandfather

Grandfather

He didn’t fish. He hunted. Wandering over wooded mountains, and whispering through the wheat fields, I followed my grandfather into a broken forest. We climbed over long oaks, and we scaled fallen hemlock trunks to reach the other side of a small stream. My footsteps fell into his. He walked slowly — much slower than a boy’s patience could match. And when my eagerness overtook me, Grandfather turned to force my pause. He leaned in and granted me this wisdom: “Slowly, child. Life’s secrets are in these trees.”

He was gone before my sons were born.

And now, when I enter these forests, these forgotten tramps, miles away from industry and deep inside shaded canyons, the wet moss absorbs my footfalls and silences the mental rush of an average life. These muted and hushed moments are given for remembering . . .

The Walkout

The Walkout

. . .The patch of forest beyond was more open than I remembered, and I walked easily through tall spruce and dying ferns, chasing the last remaining shade-line sideways until it disappeared. Silence soaked in with the shade. With the fading light, I felt the cool earth of the forest reach up and take over what the fleeting sun had left behind.

These changes of light and season happen both suddenly and gradually, depending on your own perspective and movement in time. Sit still for a while and watch the daylight fade into blackness, and it takes hours. But walk among the trees at dusk, across a soft bed of spruce needles, after a long day on the river, and time speeds up. The pace of the trees, the perspective of the forest takes hold within you, and a good long look into the future looks a lot like the past, with the days and nights rolling into each other, turning in concentric circles, day to night, season to season, through a window of time both small and wide all at once — and all of it happening both here and somewhere else concurrently, though you can’t be sure . . .

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

Austin and I left at dawn. We crossed the wide river at a tailout and entered a dense forest of hemlock and sycamore trees. Walking through dew and morning shadows, we quietly moved downstream toward a favorite, brushy island section for one final fishing trip.

Austin graduated from Penn State a few days before our trip last week, and he’s moving to North Carolina next week. And while many farewells are accompanied by a sincere “I’ll be back soon,” neither of us were willing to tell each other that lie. Sure, life may bring Austin back sooner than later, or ten years from now I may be talking about a good friend whom I miss and haven’t seen for a decade. It’s hard to predict.

I like that. A good life is unpredictable. If you have enough lines in the water, something unexpected is bound to happen. We might label those events good or bad, but I for one am happy for the variety. I’m glad this life is full of surprises.

Right Here

Right Here

I guess I’ve been searching for something.

For months now, I’ve spent my limited opportunities on the water fishing progressively more remote locations. Turning down offers to float and cast over abundant wild brown trout on our major rivers, I thought I was looking for solitude. What I’ve found is a companion so powerful it cannot be passed off as simple memory. It’s my own history, and I’ve felt it so presently that it seems at times my flat shadow may take form and rise from the leafy ground to start a conversation.

I’ve returned to the waters where I’ve been, to revisit not the fish, but the places in time. These memories are eminently tangible out there, without the clutter of accumulated things in my home, the garage or the grocery store to get in the way. A trout stream, miles removed from hard roads, and sunken into a valley beyond the distance of average effort, offers a peaceful reward and a natural, blank slate for anyone willing to seek it. And when thirty years have passed between visits, the reflections I’ve found in these old, familiar waters are astonishing.

Jeff’s Chicken

Jeff’s Chicken

In his mid-twenties, my friend Jeff walked away from his job to be a trout bum for a few months. It was a bold move, but a strategic one. Jeff had enough funds saved up to float him from late spring all the way into the fall, and he simply wanted to hang out, drink beer and catch trout for a while.

Some people hike the Appalachian trail. Others take a year after school to travel across Canada or maybe backpack through Europe, if you have that kind of money. Jeff just wanted to fish the hell out of Central Pennsylvania and be a trout bum for once. So that’s what we did.

At the time, my own lifestyle was pretty flexible. I’d already spent five or six years exploring Central and North-Central Pennsylvania during the day and playing music in clubs and bars at night. Gas was cheap then, and it was nothing for me to wake at dawn and travel north for a hundred miles.

Absence | Goodbye, Winter

Absence | Goodbye, Winter

I hold on to winter longer than anyone else I know. I love winter for what it is, for what it makes me feel, for what it turns me into — for how it forces family to huddle closer, and for how exquisitely alone I feel outside.

Winter is the season of absence.

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From Pennsylvania to Montana and Back

From Pennsylvania to Montana and Back

Early August in Montana, 2007. The afternoons burned hot, but the mornings were bitter and covered with frost. Our days swam together until neither the time nor the day of the week mattered at all. Dad and I had two weeks and more, long enough that the internal...

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One Thing at a Time

One Thing at a Time

. . .By focusing on just one thing at a time, I learned each element without the distractions of other tactics. And when I exhausted the variations of one method, I suppose it was something like boredom that suggested I move on to the next thing.

And now, my favorite days on the water are spent adapting, using all the tactics that I’m familiar with to fish whatever way best suits the next piece of water. Changing rigs is second nature to me. It’s not a chore, and I’m no longer confused by the different options.

I think I’m always looking for the next obsession too — the next stage of fly fishing to jump to (or back into) — just to keep things fresh . . .

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Peace In the Valley

Peace In the Valley

Dad and I didn't set up camp in our usual spot. For as long as I can remember, we’ve chosen primitive, state forest lands rather than campgrounds. It’s quieter, and there’s more of a sense that you’re truly getting away from everything for a while. But this year the...

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